600km Walking Pilgrimage through Spain

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on September 2 2008

From the moment I discovered an ancient pilgrimage path in Spain in June last year, the attraction of walking hundreds of kilometres towards an assured destination grew on me daily. My eagerness to go on a month-long journey on foot across the steep slopes, lush valleys and forests of the Pyrenees, and through countless small towns and villages, was part of a subconscious quest to find depth and meaning in my life. At the age of 33, I was approaching – prematurely, perhaps – what seemed to be a mid-life crisis.

Straits Times Life! Article,Denise Chng Lisan,Camino de Santiago,Camino Frances

Letter from Quebec: Preserving Heritage

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on November 8 2008

'TRAVEL is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,' wrote Miriam Beard. Life in Quebec is now my teacher, pointing out my knowledge gaps and honing my ideas of living - be it language, culture, life-skills, or the environment.

Denise Chng Lisan

Walk with me

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Tuesday, October 30, 2007
On my camino, I realized one very important thing.

I meet people along the way, they come and they go. Some move on, some left behind. A few rare ones will walk with me. Simply because we shared the same pace. Or because we shared the same interests. Or ideas. I concluded that people who eventually walked with me are holy encounters. They are in my path for a reason. I have something to learn from them. And they too, perhaps, might learn something from me.

Along the way, I missed those who have left me. I wondered how they are doing. Are they coping alright on their journey? Did they resolve the problems they had when I met them? Be it a blister, a sore pain, an emotional scar, baggage to be left behind....

On the final day in Santiago, Sunday October 21st, I attended pilgrims' mass. It was really by chance, because I had intended to attend mass the day before but missed it. On hindsight, it was God's miracle in store for me.

As i sat quietly waiting for mass to start, I saw pilgrims arriving in their bagpack, with shells on their back. Pilgrims. It was a beautiful sight watching them, because everyone has their own emotions during this significant moment. Since I had arrived two days before, I had taken my time to come into the whole experience. But I was caught unaware when I saw Nikki.

Nikki is a South African who started with me on the very first day of the hard climb over the Pyrenees. We slept in the same room the night before we started and shared our anxieties. Then, we had no idea what lied ahead of us. She lost her wallet and realized that she had it all along. I lost my guidebook and realized that I had it all along. We helped each other climb the tough slopes, whined to each other about our bags and aches. Nikki is a lovely girl, who is not afraid to laugh at herself, is tougher than she thinks, and smoked 50 cigarettes a day before she started the camino. We splitted after the third day, and haven't saw each other after that.

(Nikki and I on our first day of climb)

She was constantly on my mind. I wondered if she was ok with her bagpack. Is she walking ahead or behind me? Is she still smoking 50 cigis a day? If only I could see her again. I should have gotten her email. And the thoughts went on...

When we saw each other in church, it was almost unbelievable. My tears came when I saw her, and she cried too. I think it wasn't so much that we missed each other that we cried. Perhaps we were crying for ourselves that we got to where we were. And seeing each other reminded us of the very first day we started - and how far we have come along. I suppose it was then we 'felt' the magnitude of the transformational experience within us. And maybe we cried because we shared that experience from the very beginning.

(Nikki and I catching up with each other after Mass 30 days later)

My experience on the camino taught me to see my friends in my life differently. Or rather more deeply. They are fellow walkers in my life. And I thank them for walking with me, while we are still walking together. Those who have walked on, or whom I have left behind, they are still in my mind. And I hope we will meet again. I hope they are walking well in the mean time, with strong firm steady strides.

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